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What to do if your child accidentally eats cannabis

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Across the United States, cannabis use is growing, and so is cannabis legalization. Cannabis is legal in 21 states, and a record 49 percent of American adults say they have tried cannabis.

As the popularity of legal cannabis rises, so does its accessibility. While legal cannabis products are intended for adults 21 and older, that does not mean it can’t accidentally get into smaller hands. In the Upstate New York Poison Center alone, calls regarding children eating cannabis products tripled in 2021.

Cannabis flower and especially edible cannabis products like brownies, gummies, and cannabutter can easily be mistaken by children for food, so it’s vital that you keep your cannabis products out of the reach of your kids. It’s also important to have a game plan in place in case one of your kids gets into your stash.

Whether you’ve found this article in a crisis or are just looking to prepare, we’re here to help. Here’s what to do if your child accidentally eats cannabis.

Note: If your child has consumed cannabis, call US Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222.

1. Know the symptoms

You may not know for sure whether or not your child ate weed. Your stash is open, but you can’t tell if any products are missing, and your child is too young to tell you what happened.

If this sounds like you, the first thing you should do is look for the symptoms typical to children who have consumed cannabis edibles. Watch how your child behaves over roughly three hours and answer these questions as you observe them:

Are they acting more anxious or paranoid than usual?

Do they seem dizzy or nauseous?

Are they showing signs of being physically impaired or slurring their words?

Are they abnormally drowsy?

If part of your stash is missing and your answer is “yes” to any of these questions, odds are your child has consumed cannabis.

It’s important to note that while these symptoms are commonly seen in children who consume cannabis edibles, children who have consumed raw cannabis flower probably will not exhibit these symptoms as eating raw cannabis flower generally does not produce psychoactive effects. Still, it’s a good idea to carefully monitor children who have recently consumed cannabis in any form.

2. Identify when your child consumed the product

The next thing that you need to be aware of is what cannabis product your child ate, and when. As mentioned before, consuming raw cannabis flower generally won’t get a person high, but most other cannabis products containing more than 0.3 percent THC will.

The effects of a cannabis edible can sometimes kick in more than an hour after it was consumed. So, if your child has consumed a cannabis brownie or gummy, one of the first things that you should ask your child is when they ate the edible.

If they are able to tell you, you will have an idea of the amount of time you have to work with before the effects of the edible come into play.

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the time it takes for edibles to kick in. The strain and potency will affect how long it takes consumers to experience psychological effects. Some cannabis edibles may only take 30 minutes to start kicking in while others could take a couple of hours.

If you’ve used the edible product before, though, you will know roughly when your child will start to feel its effects from your own experience.

If you’ve caught them before the effects have had a chance to kick in, you have time to get the child to a safe and relaxing location before they experience any psychoactive effects.

However, if an hour or two has already gone by since they consumed the product, switch your focus to guiding them through the effects of the edible that they are already experiencing. Let them know that they are in a safe place and that nothing bad is going to happen to them. If they start to feel sick, get them close to a bathroom or somewhere they can lie down.

RELATED: How to calm cannabis-induced anxiety: Advice for when you’re too high

3. Call Poison Control

Whether or not your child is showing signs of discomfort from consuming cannabis, it’s never a bad idea to call Poison Control and seek guidance on your next steps.

It is extremely unlikely for a child to die from consuming cannabis, no matter how much they have consumed. However, that does not mean that children will not suffer any physical harm from eating an edible with cannabis in it. Acute Marijuana Intoxication can occur, and they could experience chest pains, panic attacks, hallucinations, and more.

In some rare cases, this might mean it’s best to take your child to the hospital. If your child is experiencing adverse symptoms from cannabis or suffers from a pre-existing condition that may make them more susceptible to the negative side effects of cannabis consumption, call this number to contact Poison Control immediately.

Poison Control can guide you through what to do, provide expert consultation on the situation, and talk to you until you get to a hospital if that is what they advise.

Some parents believe cannabis intoxication is not something Poison Control handles, but this is not true. Poison Control is happy to help and their services are free. They promise to keep your information private, so they will not report you for possession if you live in a state where cannabis is illegal.

RELATED: My dog ate weed. What should I do? We asked veterinarians how cannabis affects canines

Be proactive about keeping your kids away from cannabis

Of course, the best thing you can do is to take precautions to make sure you never need to use these tips. To prevent your child from consuming cannabis, be sure you do not put it in a place where a child can easily mistake it for something else.

If you have young children in the house, this might mean putting your cannabis products with any other prescription medicine that you may have in the house, rather than in food cabinets. As for older kids, you may just need to find a discreet hiding spot you’re confident they won’t find, or even consider storing it in a safe.

Additionally, keep your cannabis products wrapped up in brown bags or other unappealing packages, and make sure to get rid of any cannabis product packaging that is meant to resemble candy brands.

RELATED: What are the packaging laws for cannabis products around the country? And how do they affect my kids?

Bottom line: The best thing you can do if your child accidentally consumes cannabis is to call Poison Control. They can help you determine whether or not it’s necessary to take your child to the hospital and provide suggestions to make your child more comfortable while you wait for the effects of cannabis to ware off. Plus, their services are free and they will keep your information private.

Hopefully, however, you’ve taken precautions to keep your children from finding cannabis in the first place. It’s much better to spend ten minutes stashing your hash securely than to risk your child’s health and well-being.